So this is where the Cleveland Browns stand.
A season that started with the promise of the playoffs has devolved into head coach Freddie Kitchens defiantly defending a T-shirt in a Week 13 loser’s postgame news conference.
He did so while players in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ winning locker room slammed him for his attire.
“I thought it was pretty stupid,” Steelers guard David DeCastro told reporters. “That's bulletin-board material. I don't know why you'd do that, as a coach. I just don't get that. Of course it's going to motivate us. What are you thinking?"
In case you missed it, Kitchens wore a “Pittsburgh Started It” T-shirt on Friday. And he wasn’t just spotted out in public.
He proudly posed for a social-media photo, which was posted on Instagram a day before kickoff vs. the Steelers, while wearing the allusion to Myles Garrett slamming a helmet against Mason Rudolph’s head.
Browns blow it
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, and the Browns (5-7) had just blown an opportunity to get back into the playoff race with a lackluster showing in a 20-13 loss to their division rivals.
It came complete with another poor showing from quarterback Baker Mayfield (56.3 completion percentage, 196 yards, one touchdown, one interception, five sacks) that saw him largely ignore Odell Beckham Jr. (three catches on six targets for 29 yards).
A defense playing without a suspended Garrett allowed undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges (66.7 completion percentage, 212 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one sack) to outplay Mayfield, 2018’s No. 1 overall pick.
In short, it’s the same story that has plagued the Browns all season, with adjustments and improvement nowhere in sight.
So, about that T-shirt ...
In the aftermath of it all, Kitchens stood at the postgame podium and faced questions about a T-shirt.
“The T-shirt didn’t have anything to do with this,” Kitchens said. “I wore a T-shirt. I wore a jacket with it. My daughter told me to wear the shirt, and I’d wear it again.”
After placing the blame of his much-mocked T-shirt decision on his daughter, he hammered home his point that it’s not a big deal because, hey, he wore a jacket with it.
“I put a jacket on,” Kitchens said. “I covered it up. I took a picture with a fan. It was as simple as that. The T-shirt didn’t cause us to give up 40-yard passes. We were ready to play.”
‘Why throw gas?’
Meanwhile, DeCastro wasn’t the only player in the Steelers locker room with pointed criticism directed at Kitchens. Pittsburgh guard Ramon Foster told reporters that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin knows better.
“You just don’t see that from upper management,” Foster said. “We’ve all got to grow as professionals in some sense. I’m glad Coach T doesn’t do anything like that.
“I know our coach would have never done anything like that. Why throw gas? When do you something like that, you throw players in harm’s way. He’s not on the field.”
As Cleveland’s season continues to spiral out of control, Kitchens appears to be putting extra effort into ensuring that his tenure with the team is one and done.
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